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29 April 2013

Toxi

Afro-German actress Toxi (1946) starred as a child in a successful drama about racism. As a young adult, she appeared under her real name Elfi Fiegert in a few more films and on TV.

Toxi
German postcard by Rüdel-Verlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. 378. Photo: Lilo / FONO / Allianz-Film.

Brown Babies
Toxi was born as Elfi (or Elfie) in 1946. Her father was an African American G.I. and student, who soon after her birth was sent off to Korea. So her German mother had to bring her baby to an orphanage. There she was discovered and adopted by the Fiegert family, and renamed Elfi Fiegert. In 1952, after a mass audition held in Munich, the then 5-years old Elfi was selected for the lead in Toxi (1952, Robert A. Stemmle). She played an Afro-German girl who comes to live at the house of a middle-class German family, and thus confronts them with their own racism. The film's release came as the first wave of children born to black Allied serviceman and white German mothers (the ‘brown babies’) entered school. Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “At the time the film was made, there were over 3000 children living in Germany who'd been fathered by African American GIs. Referred to as ‘mischlings,’ these children were often treated as outcasts because of their illegitimacy and skin color.” Publicity for the film emphasized the similarities between Elfi Fiegert’s own story and that of Toxi. Elfi was even credited as Toxi. The light entertainment film had a happy end and was the eighth most popular release at the West German box office in 1952. Hal Erickson: ”By concentrating on a highly fictionalized plotline, Toxi tends to ignore the thousands of other mischlings whose lives are far more complex and tragic than that of the film's central character.”

Toxi
German postcard by Rüdel-Verlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. 395. Photo: Lilo / FONO / Allianz-Film.

Toxi
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden/Westf., no. 593. Photo: Lilo / FONO / Allianz-Film.

Aloha, Aloha, Lailani
Three years later, Toxi starred again in the less successful Der dunkle Stern/The Dark Star (1955, Hermann Kugelstadt). She played again a black occupation child, but the film was not a sequel to Toxi. Her co-stars in this film drama were Ilse Steppat and Viktor Staal. Then her film career was interrupted for eight years. As a young adult, Toxi returned to the cinema in the Austrian comedy Unsere tollen Tanten in der Südsee/Our Mad Aunts in the Southsea (1963, Rolf Olsen). Günther Philipp, Gus Backus and Udo Jürgens were the stars of the Tolle Tante films, a series of cross-dressing farces peppered with popular schlagers. This third and final episode took place in the Southsea, although the film was shot at the Canary Islands, Spain. Toxi, now credited as Elfi Fiegert, played the island girl Lailani and sang the song Aloha, Aloha, Lailani. That same year she also appeared in Das Haus in Montevideo/The House in Montevideo (1963, Helmut Kaütner). In this comedy Heinz Rühmann starred as a stiff German professor who inherits a villa in Montevideo, Uruguay. Toxi, this time credited as Toxi Fiegert, played the supporting part of the villa’s exotic attendant Belinda. It was hard for her to find acting jobs and mostly she worked as a secretary in Munich. In their study Not So Plain as Black and White, Patricia M. Mazón and Reinhild Steingröver cite an agent who bluntly said to Elfi: “There is just no demand in Germany for an actress like you.“ Her final screen appearance was again eight years later in two episodes of the popular TV series Salto Mortale (1971, Michael Braun). Thereafter Elfi Fiegert retired from show business.


Opening scene from Toxi (1952). Source: Dantesvalley (YouTube).


Short scene from Toxi (1952). Source: Dantesvalley (YouTube).


Closing scene from Toxi (1952). Source: Dantesvalley (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Patricia M. Mazón and Reinhild Steingröver (Not So Plain as Black and White), Wikipedia (English and German), and IMDb.

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